Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t written my blog for a while. Partly I have been so busy I haven’t had time to write. But also I hit a bit of writer’s block. I met a group of people who I love more than I ever expected to, and I had the time of my life during these next two weeks of my trip. It has been really hard for me to try to describe the people, the places, the laughter. Every time I try to write about it, I say too much and too little all at the same time.
So here’s my attempt, paired with lots of photos because pictures show better than my words could, the magic of the next two weeks of my incredibly, life changing journey through Europe to my new life in Ireland.
After I left Viareggio I headed to Rome to start my two weeks of touring from Rome to Venice. I hadn’t thought much about it since booking it, and leaving Viareggio and my friends behind left me a bit melancholy. I had been looking forward to my two weeks learning Italian, my cooking classes, and living in Tuscany for two solid weeks. I knew the next two weeks would be lovely too, but I had no idea what I was in for!
Rome was overwhelming when I arrived at the train station with all my gear on my back. I spent my first night, after checking in, wandering around the area a bit. I found a restaurant to have pizza…the worst pizza I have ever had in my life, in fact. I don’t know how I managed it, but I found the one restaurant with the worst pizza and terrible wine. I actually looked on Yelp to find a good pizzaria, but got lost on the way and ended up at a restaurant with a similar but obviously different name. So I was sitting there not enjoying it, not particularly enjoying Rome, when one of the guys who worked at the restaurant started trying to chat me up. He asked me not subtle questions about my marital status, and I let him tell me I was married with kids, thinking if I just agreed with what he said he would leave me alone. Turns out that doesn’t work so well with Italian guys. He noticed my lack of wedding ring and the fact I was traveling alone and assumed that meant I was looking for a fling. Never lie folks, even by omission. It doesn’t end well. He tried to get me to stay and drink with him, but unfortunately for him this “floozy” was going home alone. So my first night in Rome was a bit of a bust, but it was definitely a memory!
The next morning the front desk rang to tell my roommate for the trip had arrived – the lovely Robyn from Whitehorse. We immediately bonded over a love of travel, and being Canadian. We spent the day wandering around Rome together, taking in the sights, the monuments, the Colosseum. We even had our picture taken with Spartans! (touristy, yes, but you have to do some of these things in Rome). Turned out we had matching travel styles, so wandering aimlessly worked out for both of us, and between the two of us we found our way home in decent time. I was excited to have a cool roommate for the next two weeks, and to know that whatever happened with the tour group, at least one of my travel buddies would be fun. It was exciting and a bit nerve-wracking wondering what the rest of our group would be like.
That night the group came together for the first time. And what a group it was. We had 16 people plus our tour guide, but 8 of them were actually a group of Americans that had come on vacation together. They mostly split off and did their own thing, although we did get to know a few of them after a while and they were really lovely. There was a really sweet married couple who also split off quite a bit and did their own thing as would do on a romantic Italian tour with your loved one; although when they did join us they were dolls (heya Gerry and Peter!).
But when I think of this tour, I really think of a core group of us that spent pretty much every waking hour together. We walked, talked, train-ed, bus-ed, laughed, ate, drank and even cycled together through Italy. These people were my family away from home and I love them all so much. Robyn, of course, who kept me grounded and sane if I might have flown off into the ethos a bit. She was a rock.
Then there was Kay and Theo, this amazing couple from Melbourne who have become my adopted parents. Their dry senses of humor and warmth kept me coming back for more time with them. Elisa, also an Aussie, a strong woman with a perfectly timed dry wit who became my adopted sister.
Elisa, Kay and I in particular stayed up nights bonding (okay, drinking) and I have to say I hadn’t felt so free in a really long time. Those two ladies have sass and wisdom and made me laugh so hard I could barely breath. Then there was Fraser, a young Scottish guy that had a darker sense of humor than me which I really enjoyed. And of course last but not least our fearless and lovely (inside and out) leader Daniel, who joined us when he could and showed us the best of Italy. Over the course of the two weeks these crazy peeps became La Famiglia to me, the family, and I can’t say enough about them.
The first night of our tour Daniel took us to a restaurant for the group to bond, the American contingent took off to do their own thing, so the 9 of us took off to get to know each other. We went from restaurant to pub (Irish pub, ironically enough) and Daniel inaugurated our trip with shots of limoncello and a toast to the journey to come. We all talked about our favourite cities in the world, the places we had traveled, and where we were going next. We laughed and drank and generally passed a good night. It was a sign of all the good things to come.